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German foreign minister calls for global focus on diplomacy

In his final appearance before the UN General Assembly, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has called on the world community to solve conflicts through diplomacy. He praised renewed initiatives on Iran and Syria.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle on Saturday praised the diplomatic initiatives to destroy Syria's chemical weapons and come to a compromise on Iran's nuclear program.

"It was a good week for the world; the world community should stay on this path," Westerwelle said in his speech to the General Assembly.

The German foreign minister called on the main actors to seize the political opportunity provided by Russian-US agreement on Syria's chemical weapons.

"We have to use the chance which the agreement on destroying the chemical weapons offers us," he said. "Only a political solution will bring enduring peace to Syria."

Iranian nuclear dispute

On Iran, Westerwelle expressed cautious optimism. Yesterday, the Iranian and US presidents talked on the telephone, the first contact between the countries' leaders since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Both Presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani have expressed a readiness for a renewed diplomatic push to solve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

"The recent conversations with the Iranian government have opened a window of opportunity," Westerwelle said. "Now it depends on building trust."

The German foreign minister also touched on Internet security, privacy and surveillance. Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about massive US spy programs have triggered a global uproar, particularly in privacy-sensitive Germany.

"We need an Internet in which freedom, security and protection of the private sphere are brought into a reasonable balance," Westerwelle said. "Whoever uses the Internet should be able to be sure that their rights are protected worldwide from both companies and states."

Westerwelle, a member of Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP), will not have a seat in the next parliament. The FDP, Merkel's junior coalition partner for the past four years, failed to clear the 5 percent hurdle to win representation. That means all of the party's representatives will lose their seats in the Bundestag.

slk/mkg (AFP, dpa)